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12-15-11: The Agony Column Live with Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett, and music by Fenyang Smith, December 10, 2011

Karen Joy Fowler (left) joined the discussion with Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett. Click image for audio link of panel conversation.

"... let's look at what happens if people have abilities that other people don't have ..."
—Ayize Jama-Everett

Though they write of very different worlds, Lisa Goldstein and Ayize Jama-Everett have a surprisingly similar take in their fiction. They both write stories that effectively create secret worlds where fairytales and the supernatural are real; they create spaces in our world where these surreal and unreal aspects of our lives come out in the open. Our gracious hosts at Capitola Book Café might have a few signed copies left; and in any evet they certainly deserve your business.

Pairing them seemed natural, once I thought about it. Ayize asked me if he could bring a musician to join him; Fenyang Smith, a superbly talented player who helmed his music from a laptop using Logic and an M-AUDIO controller. CBC has a very nice space for musicians behind the writers.

Goldstein started the show with the opening from 'The Uncertain Places,' which I think is easily one of the best this year. Then with, Fenyang to accompany him, AYize read from 'The Liminal People.' I enjoyed this aspect of the show quite a bit and may try to bring in more musicians to back us up.

After that, the discussion began, and with a lot of help from our audience, in particular Karen Joy Fowler, we really dug into these two unique and entertaining novels. I'm podcasting everything today, in three parts.

Here's a link to Lisa Goldstein's reading from 'The Uncertain Places.'

Here's a link to Ayize Jama-Everett reading from 'The Liminal People,' backed by Fenyang Smith.

And here's a link to the discussion with Lisa Goldstein, Ayize Jama-Everett and our esteemed audience.

12-14-11: A 2011 Interview with Peter Orner

Click image for audio link.
"...the humor of hard things is what gets us through it."Peter Orner

Peter Orner could be a character in one of his own books; as he and I get set up in the office at Capitola Book Café, he's full of the same nervous energy that drives this novel. Of course, I find out early on, that to a degree, Orner is a character in his own novel. These stories are based on those from his family, and like his characters, he's always been surrounded by politics.

If Orner were not such a wonderful writer, it would be more of a shame that he didn't follow his inclinations to go into politics. But there is nothing stopping him now, so far as that goes, other than acclaim for his fiction and non-fiction.

Happily, instead of exercising his political inclinations by jumping in the mudbath of politics as it is practiced in the US today, Orner exercises his political enthusiasms editing non-fiction for Dave Eggers Voice of Witness series; 'Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives,' with Luis Alberto Urrea and 'Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives.

Peter Orner's books have a loose fun feel to them and you might imagine that speaking with him is similarly loose and fun; which you can find out by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

12-13-11 UPDATE: Podcast Update: Time to Read, Episode 22: Sue Grafton, 'V is for Vengeance'
Click image for audio link.

Here's the twenty-second episode of my new series of podcasts, which I'm calling Time to Read. The podcasts/radio broadcasts will be of books worth your valuable reading time. I'll try to keep the reports under four minutes, for a radio-friendly format. If you want to run them on your show or podcast, let me know.

My hope is that in under four minutes I can offer readers a concise review and an opportunity to hear the author read from or speak about the work. I'm hoping to offer a new one every week.

The twenty-second episode is a look at Sue Grafton and her new book, 'V is for Vengeance'.

Here's a link to the MP3 audio file of Episode 22: Sue Grafton, 'V is for Vengeance'

12-13-11: Speaking Frankly with Thomas Frank

Click image for audio link.

"More Government, Please!"

—Thomas Frank

Harper's Magazine, being one of the last bastions of reasonable thought and a monthly publication well worth your valuable reading time, has a new article by no less than Thomas Frank, asking for the unthinkable: "More Government, Please!"

It's been a fascinating few years on the American political and economic landscape, and rather mind-boggling, to tell the truth. We're in the midst of what we like to call an "economic downturn," which is to say, a global economic catastrophe that is likely to make the Great Depression look like Happy Valley. I've been betting on the barrels as a fashion trend for a while now.

In his latest article for Harper's, Thomas Frank thinks the unthinkable, asking for more government and suggesting that we look at re-creating the successful programs that helped pull the nation out of the Great Depression. These are unfashionable thoughts in these days when the loudest shouters are loudly shouting for even less regulation in an economic downturn (read: "catastrophe") caused by deregulation. Happily, Thomas Frank is not so quick to damn logic as those who seek to be the boss of you.

I spoke with Thomas Frank about his latest article for Harper's and why more government is more better than meeting the demands of those who claim to represent "job creators." You can hear our conversation by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

12-12-11: A 2011 Interview With David Vann

Click image for audio link.

"...we're out of control, and we're a nation built on giant lies."

—David Vann

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure where I interviewed David Vann. I could probably get to the location again, a lovely suburban house in Fremont, but beyond that; I don't know. I don't know what the meaning of that house was, so to speak, and that's indicative of the intensity of our conversation.

I want to tell readers straight up that this interview is going to anger some of you, terrify most of you and rivet the attention of anyone who starts listening. The experience was like getting in a bullet train, no egress till the end. I'd spoken with David before, and he was perfectly at ease with me, and so we engaged in one of the most unforgettable conversations I will ever have.

I do want to caution listeners who might be sensitive. While we don't talk about any violence beyond the shootings themselves, the level of intensity here is such that some will want to approach this with caution. This is a conversation that examines the darkest aspects of our nation and our culture. I suspect that many will disagree with some of the conclusions Vann reaches. But I think it is important to have those thoughts aired, to get them out in the open so that we can look at them. The author makes admissions that are startling.

Readers can hear my conversation with David Vann about his book 'Last Day On Earth' by following this link to the MP3 audio file.

New to the Agony Column

11-22-14: Commentary : William Gibson Connects 'The Peripheral' : Time Life Books

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with William Gibson : "...recalibrate my yardstick of weirdness..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 184: William Gibson : The Peripheral

11-19-14: Commentary : David Greene Catches 'Midnight in Siberia: A Train Journey into the Heart of Russia' : The Character(s) of a Country

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with David Greene : "It was very easy to literally just tell their stories..."

11-17-14: Commentary : Azar Nafisi Resides In 'The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books' : Choose Your World

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Azar Nafisi : "I wanted to show how close reality and fiction are..."

11-15-14: Commentary : Cary Elwes Delivers 'As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride' : Re-Reading and Re-Viewing

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Cary Elwes : " unwise decision on my part..."

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 183: Azar Nafisi : The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

11-10-14: Commentary : Dana Cowin 'Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen' : Learning to Cook — and Live

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Dana Cowin : " I add a little more citrus..."

11-09-14:Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 182: Dana Cowin : Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes

11-06-14: Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi and A. S. King : "You're handing us all the problems..." Paolo Bacigalupi "That gray area is so important for readers..." A. S. King

11-05-14: Commentary : A. S. King Foresees 'Glory O'Brien's History of the Future' : Halls of Mirrorsr

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with A. S. King : "How much do we really change?"

11-04-14: Commentary : Paolo Bacigalupi Believes In 'The Doubt Factory' : Thrills Matter

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Paolo Bacigalupi : "...these are perfectly nice people..."

10-30-14: Commentary : Brian J. Showers Opens 'The Green Book, Issue 4' : 200 Years of Le Fanu

Agony Column Podcast News Report UPDATE: Time to Read Episode 181: Paolo Bacigalupi : The Doubt Factory

10-27-14: Commentary : Jim Rockhill and Brian J. Showers Recall 'Dreams of Shadow and Smoke: Stories for J. S. Le Fanu' : New Stories for an Antiquary

Agony Column Podcast News Report : A 2014 Interview with Brian J. Showers : "I have a lot reference materials on my desk..."

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